Around 11 pm on July 29, 1945, a Japanese submarine, I-58, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, was running on the surface some 250 miles north of Palau. The watch officer reported a large vessel approaching at 12-knots and not zigzagging. Hashimoto identified the ship as an Idaho-class battleship. He ordered the I-58 to dive and prepared to attack. According to I-58’s log, it fired a spread of six Type 95 torpedoes at 11:26 pm. At 11:35, it recorded two hits. At this time Hashimoto noted that the target ship was listing to starboard and down by the bow. He ordered the tubes reloaded but by the time this was done the ship had disappeared from view.
The ship was the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) and she sank after completing one of the most important single-ship missions in the history of warfare. She departed Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard on July 16, 1945, carrying half of the world’s supply of U-235. She broke all records in making the run to Pearl Harbor in 74 hours, a record that still stands. There she took on board additional components for the atom bomb to Tinian, again running alone and under secret orders, and arrived there on July 26. Her main mission completed she was ordered to Guam to pick up replacement sailors for Task Force 95, then prepping for the invasion of Okinawa, and to join in the invasion force. Indianapolis was less than two days on this final leg of its voyage when she encountered I-58 purely by very bad luck.
What followed was an epic of terror and heroism. Of the 1196 crew and supercargo, about 300 died when the Indianapolis sank. Because the ship was running under conditions of secrecy no SOS was sent and the ship wasn’t missed. On August 2, a PV-1 Ventura spotted men and wreckage in the water while on a routine patrol. A rescue operation ensued but only 321 men were recovered and four of those died after being pulled from the water.
If many Americans are familiar with the Indianapolis at all they know it by this monologue from the movie Jaws.
The Indianapolis’s commanding officer, Captain Charles McVay, was court-martialed. He committed suicide in 1968.
The grave of the Indianapolis, however, remained unknown. Until this past weekend.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 21, 2017
— USS Indianapolis (@USSIndyOfficial) August 19, 2017
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) August 19, 2017
That was until Saturday, when a team led by Paul G. Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, announced that it had found unmistakable wreckage of the Indianapolis 18,000 feet deep in the Philippine Sea, rekindling memories of the Navy’s worst disaster at sea.
“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Mr. Allen said in a statement on his website.
The discovery of the ship’s remains required detective work to get a more accurate location for the Indianapolis when it was struck with two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine.
A naval historian, Richard Hulver, came across a blog post that led him last year to a ship’s log recording a sighting of the Indianapolis. Calculations using that record showed that the cruiser was west of where it had long been assumed to be. Using a ship equipped with advanced undersea search equipment, Mr. Allen’s team began combing the newly identified area.
After 70 years lost, the USS Indianapolis is finally found.